Tuesday 24th November Hebrews – Motives for Perseverance
Hebrews 10: 32 – 39
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet ‘in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.’
But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
Remembering the bad old days – or were they good old days? It rather depends what exactly we dwell on when we remember. My father had lifelong memories of his ten years in the Army (1910 – 1920) when, having been badly wounded in 1916, he spent several years in a POW camp in dire conditions, and suffered for the rest of his life. World War I had been a terrible experience, yet one he would not have missed. He told its stories and sang its songs with humour and a sense of gratitude that he had survived, and was glad to be able to work and keep his family.
As I read this passage, my first thought was that the “bad old days” lived by the Hebrew Christians were not so different from my father’s experience. Nor indeed were they unlike the continuing experience of people today who suffer “public abuse and persecution” (and sometimes prosecution) because of the colour of their skin or their faith or their sexual orientation – or because of their determination to convince governments of the reality of climate change – or who campaign for prison reform, for safe working conditions, for a fair Benefits system or affordable housing … All these are long-term projects, part of the ongoing Christian commitment to the kingly rule of Christ. They need people of compassion and generosity, confidence and endurance … and, most of all, people of faith and hope and love. So that all will be able to say with the writer of Hebrews,
We are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
God of Love and Justice and Hope give us clear vision to see the needs around us; make us quick to hear the weeping of the world and ready to offer your healing and comfort. Let us never shrink back from your call to Love, but keep us ever faithful to know and to share your salvation. Amen
Heather Pencavel, retired Minister (Workplace Chaplain), member of Thornbury URC
Monday 23rd November Hebrews – The Danger of Apostasy
Hebrews 10: 26 – 31
For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy ‘on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Did you ever stay out after curfew, or eat sweets before your dinner? Did you then receive the punishment due for breaking the rules? As we grow up, our parents teach us right from wrong, and teach us the rules we are to follow in life – whether laws of the land, or household instructions. And we follow them – mostly – and, usually as teenagers – see how many of them we can at least bend! But we know when we have bent or broken the rules, we will feel the disappointment or even wrath of our parents for our disobedience.
What we are warned in our reading is slightly more serious than whether we put our dirty clothes in the washing basket. When we accept Christ into our lives, it is not just a commitment to an hour a week on a Sunday. It is a complete change of life. It is a way of life that inspires us to do the right thing all the time, to put away our own desires and plans and to live for Christ. If we choose to stray from that path we are doomed to judgement. Of course, we are going to get it wrong sometimes, but this is more than that. It’s a deliberate choice to turn our back on everything we believe and act as though we had never accepted Christ, making his sacrifice for nothing. Then we will feel the full force of God’s judgement.
We spend so much time focussing on the security and love and hope we have in Christ, that we often forget that there are consequences to our actions if we deliberately choose to reject him. Be warned.
Lord God, we don’t want to be scared about following you, but sometimes we rely too much on your forgiving love that we take advantage and stray too far. Remind us of your judgement that we might realise the consequences of our actions and so focus more on our commitment. May we use the love you have shown to us to motivate all our actions that we may follow your true path. Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Watson Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister